California News

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Retiring Cal Fire Chief: State must consider ban on homes in fire-prone areas

California’s increasingly deadly and destructive wildfires have become so unpredictable that government officials should consider banning home construction in vulnerable areas, the state’s top firefighter says. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott will leave his job Friday after 30 years with the agency. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said government and citizens must act differently to protect lives and property from fires that now routinely threaten large populations. That may mean rethinking subdivisions in thickly forested mountainous areas or homes along Southern California canyons lined with tinder-dry chaparral. Yet Los Angeles County supervisors stung by California’s housing shortage approved a massive rural housing development Tuesday despite the fire danger.
San Jose Mercury News

Lawsuit says police shot man in chaos of Long Beach Fire Captain’s death, then punched him at the hospital

A 78-year-old man is suing the Long Beach Police Department alleging that police shot him in the abdomen as he was evacuating a retirement home where a firefighter was fatally shot following an explosion in June. Police, however, say there is clear evidence that no officers fired during the incident. Long Beach Fire Capt. David Rosa was shot and killed by Covenant Manor resident Thomas Kim, 77, on the morning of June 25 after Kim set off an explosion in his apartment. In their federal lawsuit filed Dec. 6, Covenant Manor residents Vladimir Tsipursky and his wife, Inna, said they were evacuating the building around 4 a.m. due to a fire from the explosion when police responded to the scene and shot Tsipursky in the abdomen. Police arrested Tsipursky and transported him to St. Mary Medical Center, the lawsuit says. At one point, officers punched Tsipursky in the face while he was at the hospital, it alleges.
Long Beach Post

Camp Fire: PG&E finds bullet holes, broken equipment at sites where blaze likely started

PG&E has acknowledged to regulators that it found bullet holes, a broken transmission-tower hook and other flaws with equipment at sites where the catastrophic Camp Fire is believed to have started last month. In its most detailed accounting yet of the problems that might have led to the Nov. 8 wildfire that consumed most of Paradise, the beleaguered utility told state officials that its inspectors have found a “broken C-hook” on a high-voltage tower near the community of Pulga, northeast of Paradise. Lawyers for Camp Fire survivors suing PG&E have suggested the broken hook might have allowed a live “jumper” cable to make contact with the tower itself, showering the dry ground below with sparks. Separately, at a power pole in the Big Bend area of Concow several miles away, PG&E employees found that “the pole and other equipment was on the ground with bullets and bullet holes at the break point of the pole and on the equipment,” PG&E senior director of regulatory relations Meredith Allen wrote in a letter to the Public Utilities Commission.
Merced Sun-Star

Cost Of Clean-Up From Camp, Woolsey Fires To Top $3 Billion

State and federal authorities estimated Tuesday that it will cost at least $3 billion to clear debris from 19,000 homes and businesses destroyed by three California wildfires last month. The disaster relief officials said the cleanup costs will far surpass the record cleanup expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017. California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time. Hundreds of Northern California homeowners complained contractors last year paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt and damaged unbroken driveways, sidewalks and pipes. The state OES spent millions of dollars repairing that damage. Ghilarducci said the state OES will hire auditors and monitors to watch over the debris removal in hopes of cutting down on the number of over-eager contractors.
KOVR-TV CBS Sacramento

Holy Fire Suspect Set to Be Arraigned in Orange County After 3 Mental Evaluations

A man suspected of sparking the destructive Holy Fire is expected to be arraigned Wednesday after a third psychiatric evaluation showed the defendant to be competent. Forrest Gordon Clark was first ordered to undergo a mental exam back in August, when he acted erratically and made rambling statements in court, telling the judge at one point that he "comprehended" the charges against him but "did not understand" them. Clark, 51, was evaluated for a third time after the first two doctors came to conflicting conclusions about his mental fitness, according to the Los Angeles Times. A third exam -- the deciding tie-breaker -- demonstrated he was competent to face arson charges stemming from the Holy Fire, the Desert Sun reported. The wildfire burned nearly 23,000 acres -- about 35 square miles -- and destroyed more than a dozen homes in Orange and Riverside counties last August.
KTLA-TV WB 5 Los Angeles

Redding Police Department: Angry man sets car on fire because it’s out of gas

A man was in the process of setting his vehicle on fire with a road flare when police arrived Tuesday afternoon. The Redding Police Department said Dane Brayman, age 39, of Antelope, CA was angry that his vehicle ran out of gas at 2851 Park Marina Drive in Redding. They say he used large rocks to break the windows of the vehicle. Mr. Brayman was warned to stay off the property as per the business owner’s request. More than an hour later, police were dispatched to the same place again because Brayman was in the process of setting his vehicle on fire with a road flare. RPD officials said Brayman began to walk away when officers attempted to contact him. The vehicle was fully engulfed when Fire personnel arrived. The fire damaged the asphalt in the parking lot.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Southern California Edison, PG&E to cover power lines, expand weather monitoring to combat wildfires

California utilities plan to insulate power lines, increase inspections and build new weather stations in areas at high risk for wildfires in an effort to combat increasingly destructive blazes. Southern California Edison told legislative employees Monday it wants to spend $582 million to cover some of its power lines and deploy new cameras to cover 90 percent of high-risk areas. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., meanwhile, announced it will inspect 5,500 additional miles of power lines and build 1,300 new weather stations for better forecasting. "Our practices have to change because the environment is changing," said Don Daigler, director of business resiliency at Southern California Edison. In the past two years, California has experienced its deadliest and largest wildfires and utilities have faced increasing scrutiny for their equipment's role in sparking blazes. Last month, the Camp fire destroyed the town of Paradise, killing more than 80 people, while the Woolsey Fire ripped through Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Incoming Vallejo fire chief to earn top step salary

Vallejo’s incoming fire chief, Daryl C. Arbuthnott, will earn an annual base salary of $209,108 with the city, which is the top step of the salary range for the fire chief position, City Hall officials confirmed to the Times-Herald recently. Heather Ruiz, the city’s human resources director, said in an email that the salary range for the fire chief position is between $172,034 to $209,108. The Vallejo City Council will review a request from City Manager Greg Nyhoff to revise the compensation, leave, and benefits for the unrepresented executive management positions, including fire chief, police chief, assistant city manager, city clerk, public works director, finance director, human resources director, and information & technology director, among others. “The recommended changes are needed in order to maintain internal equity in salaries and to avoid compaction issues, as well as maintain competitive salary levels for recruitment and retention reasons,” staff wrote in a report to the council.
Vallejo Times-Herald

Former Los Angeles Fire Marshal, City Settle Retaliation Suit

A former Los Angeles fire marshal settled the lawsuit he filed against the city, alleging that Mayor Eric Garcetti and the firefighters’ union conspired to remove him from his job in 2016, court papers show. Lawyers for plaintiff John N. Vidovich and the City Attorney’s Office told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin on Friday that the case was resolved. No terms were divulged. Vidovich’s lawyer, Michael L. Turrill, could not be immediately reached for comment on the amount of the settlement and whether it is subject to City Council approval. The suit was filed in January 2017 against the city and United Firefighters of Los Angeles. Vidovich, a longtime LAFD veteran, alleged that his August 2016 ouster was the result of a plan by the mayor’s office to unseat him in exchange for an endorsement by the firefighters’ union of Garcetti’s March 2017 reelection bid.

Mountain View’s fire chief meets family of ‘hero’ who saved his life nearly 40 years ago

Mountain View’s fire chief had a brush with death nearly 40 years ago while fleeing with his family from Cuba that continues to define him to this day. Juan Diaz, who has led the Mountain View Fire Department since 2015, was 14 when his family fled Cuba in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. During a six-month period, as many as 125,000 Cubans fled in boats for Florida to escape the communist regime during an economic crisis that was making life for many unbearable. Diaz’s story — and how he recently connected with the family of the boat captain who saved the lives of his family and hundreds of others during the boatlift; a story the family was not aware of until he met them — will be shared when PBS airs “Escape from Cuba,” an episode of “We’ll Meet Again with Ann Curry.”
East Bay Times

3 left homeless by motor home fire in Santa Rosa

Three people were burned out of their motor home early Tuesday when the vehicle’s engine apparently caught fire while parked at a westside shopping center, according to a Santa Rosa fire official. The motor home was their residence and held all of their belongings. “That was their home. They lost everything,” said Santa Rosa fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque. They’d pulled into the Raley’s shopping center parking lot on Fulton Road during the night and were sleeping when flames erupted. The smell of smoke awoke them and they got out safely, finding the engine compartment on fire, Basque said. The fire spread to the rest of the vehicle and Santa Rosa firefighters, called at 5:45 a.m., found the home on wheels engulfed in flames. The heat also damaged a GMC pickup in the next parking space. A man from the motor home told firefighters they’d stopped at the shopping center because the vehicle was low on oil and the engine was overheating, Basque said.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

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